The road followed the Spokane Indians home Tuesday.
More than anything, though, a recent trend of poor play, especially at the plate, was pivotal in Spokane’s undoing in a 9-4 setback to the Everett AquaSox in a Northwest League baseball game before 5,193 at Avista Stadium.
“Obviously, the guys can’t seem to sustain anything,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “We haven’t been playing well.”
And it couldn’t come at a worse time. Everything that could go wrong for the Indians did and more. Boise, which entered play Tuesday tied with Spokane with the second-best overall record, downed Vancouver 5-1 and Yakima topped Eugene 7-1 but remained a game behind Tri-City after the Dust Devils edged Salem-Keiser 2-1.
With four games left, the Indians (12-22 second half) have little wiggle room remaining.
“We haven’t seemed to play with any urgency,” Hulett said. “We came out tonight like we had been off a week, not a day.”
It started in the first inning when 2011 first-round draft pick Kevin Matthews, a left-handed pitcher, allowed three walks as Everett scored two.
Then Hulett pulled Matthews after he allowed a leadoff walk in the second.
“He couldn’t find the strike zone,” Hulett said.
The Indians didn’t have time to allow Matthews to find his way – not in the 72nd game of the season.
Everett stretched its lead to 4-0 in the third on back-to-back, run-scoring doubles.
That lead held until the eighth. That’s when Spokane scored its first run in 21 innings and just second in the last 40. But that probably shouldn’t have happened. AquaSox left fielder Jabari Blash made a nonchalant effort trying to catch a flyball and he dropped it, allowing Spokane to load the bases.
Spokane’s Brett Nicholas drew a bases-loaded walk and then Yefry Castillo drilled a double off the wall in left-center, knocking in three runs to pull the Indians within 5-4.
“We got a little help there and we probably don’t score if he catches it,” Hulett said.
So the Indians still had hope. But that quickly faded in the ninth when Everett scored four on five hits, the big hit coming on a two-run homer from Jorge Agudelo.
“We finally put up a crooked number and gave it up the next inning,” Hulett said.
The loss extended Spokane’s losing streak to seven – the second time in the last 20 games the Indians have lost seven in a row. Their recent 5-15 stretch began with a seven-game losing streak.
The Indians could never get into a scoreboard-watching mode. Now they have to find a way to bounce back.
“We’ve got to put this one behind us,” Hulett said. “We’ve got four big games left and we’ve got to play like they’re big games.”
If Tri-City wins the second-half title and finishes ahead of Yakima, and Spokane and Boise finished tied overall, the Indians have the tiebreaker based on – believe it or not – a better divisional record in the second half.